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AFC Champions League

Eastern coach Chan Yuen-ting reflects on bitter lessons of 7-0 drubbing by Guangzhou Evergrande

It was a humbling experience for the 28-year-old and her team as Hong Kong suffered a crushing defeat in their AFC Champions League debut

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 11:35pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 11:35pm

Chan Yuen-ting said she was hoping to learn a lot as she became the first woman to manage a team in the AFC Champions League – quite what she and her Eastern team took away from a brutal 7-0 humbling across the Pearl River Delta in Guangzhou only they will know.

If “don’t concede a penalty and have a man sent off in the first three minutes when you’re playing a team worth at least 10 times yours” was lesson one, lesson two might have been “furthermore, don’t have another man sent off with almost an hour still to play”.

Watch: Guangzhou Evergrande v Eastern, AFC Champions League highlights

Chan and Eastern – and likely the majority of Hong Kong football fans given that the opposition was from the mainland – had been hoping for a similar brave, backs-to-the-wall performance as that delivered by the Hong Kong national team in their two World Cup qualifiers against China in 2015.

On those nights, almost everything went right for Hong Kong. In Tianhe Stadium, in front of 38,000 and against Brazilian World Cup winner Luiz Felipe Scolari’s expensively-assembled six-times-in-succession Chinese champions, everything went wrong, immediately.

“We have learned a very valuable lesson today,” insisted Chan, just 28 and the first woman ever to coach a team to a title in a men’s professional league.

“Of course losing the game is a very big disappointment, but we learned we need to adjust our mentality as soon as possible [to compete in the Champions League].

“After the red card everything changed, all our tactics and plans had to be changed. And in a competition like this the pace is quite different from that we encounter in Hong Kong … it’s our debut and naturally we’ll make mistakes.”

Ricardo Goulart got Guangzhou off the mark after Wong Tsz-ho was sent off from one of Guangzhou’s first attacks, Australian referee Christopher Beath judging he had used his hand rather than his head in clearing a goal-bound shot off the line.

Chan’s plan to frustrate Guangzhou and their 40 million-worth of Brazlian talent was thus torn up and out the window with her players barely warmed up. To their credit, they held out for nearly another 20 minutes despite incessant pressure.

Wang Shangyuan added the second from close-range after Eastern goalkeeper Yapp Hung-fai failed to divert a corner to safety, and moments later, Guangzhou won another penalty; Goulart surprisingly let compatriot Alan take this one, and Yapp saved.

Liao Lisheng did make it 3-0 just after the half-hour, tapping in after Goulart waltzed through Eastern’s defence and squared the ball across the six-yard box for him, and with Eastern praying for half-time it got even worse.

Wong Chi-chung brought down Alan on the edge of the box and if that looked harsh, the referee’s decision to show him a second yellow was even tougher – but Eastern were down to nine.

With Guangzhou on a 3 million yuan bonus for every goal scored there was no danger of them letting up.

The second half was little more than a nice extension to Guangzhou’s pre-season in this their first competitive match, an interesting training exercise with Scolari’s side essentially playing 2-4-4 and Eastern desperately trying to keep them at bay.

Liao added another immediately after the restart, Alan made it five with a stunning long-range strike, Wang too got a second, and former Tottenham midfielder Paulinho ensured all the Brazilians got on the scoresheet with another fine strike for the seventh.

Scolari admitted there was little Chan could take away from such a defeat as she tries to rally her men for the next games against Kawasaki Frontale of Japan and Suwon Bluewings of South Korea. They drew 1-1.

“I comforted her and told her this match cannot be a real evidence for your ability,” said Scolari. “This is quite different when within such a short time you have two red cards like this - you can’t take it seriously.”